The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 recently received Royal Assent, which will give workers whose working patterns lack predictability the right to request a predictable working pattern, thereby changing their working terms and conditions. When such a request is received, businesses would need to follow a new statutory process to decide whether or not to grant the request.
Whilst all businesses would need to understand this new statutory process, the impact is likely to be felt more by organisations that provide temporary, fixed-term contract, or zero-hours work.
How Will This New Law Benefit Employees?
All workers will be entitled to apply for a change in terms and conditions of employment if there is a lack of predictability in their work pattern – this includes temporary agency workers.
A lack of predictability will apply for workers where there is a lack of certainty relating to the number of hours they work, the times they work, the days of the week worked or the period for which they’re contracted.
An application for a more predictable working pattern will need to contain certain information that sets out what sort of predictability they are seeking and a proposed start date.
What Are the Requirements to Request a Predictable Working Pattern?
If a worker is on a fixed-term contract (FTC) for 12 months or less, they are presumed to lack flexibility. These workers can therefore request to either extend their FTC or convert it to a permanent contract under the new legislation.
However, workers must have worked for their employer for a set period (expected to be 26 weeks) before making an application. Given that the new law aims to support those with unpredictable contracts, workers will not have had to have worked continuously during that period.
The new law also states that workers can make up to two predictable working requests within a 12-month period. This right functions in a similar way to the new right to request flexible working which received Royal Assent in July this year.
Agency workers will be able to apply directly to their agency to request predictable working. Alternatively, agency workers will also have the right to apply to the end user business for a more predictable contract if they have worked for the employer in the same role for 12 continuous weeks, and they are in the relevant role when the application is made. If an agency worker is provided a more predictable contract by the end user business, they are to be given new terms and conditions within two weeks which are no less favourable than other employees carrying out broadly comparable work.
How Would Employers Need to Respond to Requests?
Employers would need to follow a formal process (to be confirmed in a new Code of Practice) to decide whether or not to grant an employee a predictable working pattern and would need to notify a worker within one month of receiving a request of their decision. If an employer would like to refuse a request, it must be for one or more of the following reasons:
- a burden of additional costs;
- a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand;
- a damaging impact on the recruitment of staff;
- a detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business;
- insufficient work during the periods the worker proposes to work;
- planned structural changes.
If employers fail to follow a formal process, workers may be able to bring claims to the Employment Tribunal. Claims could result in employers being required to reconsider their decisions or compensate the employee (this is likely to be a number of weeks’ pay defined in further regulations).
Preparing for the new legislation
This new Bill passed through the House of Lords on 18th September and should come into effect in 2024. The UK government is currently working in partnership with Acas to produce a new Code of Practice that will provide employees and employers with clear guidance on making and handling requests.
It’s important that employers understand the new right and put policies in place to deal with such requests within relatively short timescales. In light of the changes to agency worker entitlements, recruitment agencies and businesses would need to work together to update their terms on how such requests are dealt with.
Overall, it’s believed that this new legislation will bring happiness and security to workers on unpredictable work contracts, securing them employment that suits their individual circumstances. A happier workforce also tends to increase productivity in the workplace.